In the last 2 weeks, three people close to me
have died. Two were clients I had worked with
for a long time. And the other person was my
practice’s office manager of over 11 years,
Ruth Musser, someone I worked with every
week for all those years very closely.
I found out about their deaths within the span
of just a few days and the shock was palpable.
It felt just like being hit hard in the stomach.
I still don’t feel like I can take a full breath of
air into my lungs.
Like many of you, I turn to experts in times
of trouble to get some words of wisdom.
One of the best short pieces about facing loss
and grieving is by Frank Ostaseski, which you can
find by clicking here: The Four Stages of Facing Loss.
Mr. Ostaseski details the experiences contained
within the stages of Facing Loss, Mourning,
Letting Go, and Moving On. He brilliantly
elucidates the difficulties inherent in dealing
with loss: how we judge ourselves very harshly,
how grief forces us to deal with the truth of
impermanence, how we keep on losing the
person over and over in many ways, and how
when we move on we will still carry the person
with us in some ways.
Coping with Traumatic News
One thing I have learned about myself over
the last 48 years is that I am a slow-responder
to traumatic events, as are many therapists and
people who work in fields caring for others.
We respond to immediate trauma by jumping
in and coping and figuring out who needs what,
managing and dealing with the specific needs
of the traumatic situation.
Rather than being in immediate touch with our
feelings, we “deal” with the trauma.
It is only later, when all the chaos has died down,
and the emergency is over, that we “break down”
ourselves and allow ourselves to feel our feelings
and finally begin to grieve.
And so, I am still quite numb from the shock of
having lost all these individuals who were
important to me in different ways.
It will take many months for me to be able to
process the grief and feelings of loss I know
that I feel, but are buried for the moment.
As a therapist, I know that being kind and
compassionate toward oneself during times
of grief is incredibly important.
Understanding that you may not be completely
“yourself” for a long time, that feelings of grief
can hit you seemingly from out of the blue on
even “good days,” and that you need to make time
to allow yourself to feel the “pure pain” of grief
is all par for the course of mourning.
I know that letting feelings of grief come and
wash over me and move through me is healing
and will move me forward along the grieving
path, and I do not fear feeling this.
If you are facing or dealing with loss in your
life, remember to be as kind to yourself as you
are to others who are facing losses.
You Are Not Alone
Every human is walking a path of grief,
mourning losses both old and new.
Loving people who are mortal leaves us
vulnerable to the unique pain of grief when
they die, yet this “unique” pain is universal.
You are not alone in feeling even the most
intense pain of mourning and loss, and
there are groups available both online and
in your community if talking with others
about your loss would help you to know
you are not alone, and you will survive.
For Ruth and Others
For Ruth and others dear to me,
I want to dedicate to them one of my
Death Is Nothing At All
by Canon Henry Scott-Holland
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.